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WIAA DIV. 5 SECTIONAL PREVIEW - Semifinal brings familiar foe in a bit more familiar territory

Semifinal brings familiar foe in a bit more familiar territory
Gilman’s Danielle Mann pulls a potential rebound away from South Shore’s Emily Montgomery during the Pirates’ 59-51 win over the top-seeded Cardinals Friday. HEATHER ORTH PHOTO
Semifinal brings familiar foe in a bit more familiar territory
Gilman’s Danielle Mann pulls a potential rebound away from South Shore’s Emily Montgomery during the Pirates’ 59-51 win over the top-seeded Cardinals Friday. HEATHER ORTH PHOTO


The Gilman Pirates won their WIAA Division 5 girls basketball regional title this past weekend by putting in about 11 hours of travel time to beat two opponents it had no familiarity with in South Shore and Hurley.

Tonight, Thursday, they’ll travel about 25 minutes to play an opponent they’re very familiar with in the program’s first WIAA sectional game since 1999.

The ninth-seeded Pirates (12-15) will meet their Eastern Cloverbelt Conference neighbors, second-seeded Owen-Withee (19-7) at Stanley-Boyd High School in tonight’s sectional semifinal for their third meeting of the season. Owen-Withee won the first two on its way to a second-place finish in the conference at 10-4.

The Pirates were just 4-10 in the conference, but rode their best wave of offensive momentum of the season to three road wins in regional play last week, including a 59-51 upset of 23-3 and top-seeded South Shore on Friday. Now they’re hoping there’s truth in the old axiom that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.

“I think we are a better team now than we were weeks ago,” Gilman senior cocaptain Danielle Mann said Tuesday.

“We both know each other really well, but I think after playing how we’ve been playing we’ve seen things that we hadn’t been able to do before that we can do now,” junior co-captain Kayleigh James said. “I think it will be very beneficial for us.”

Defense has been Owen-Withee’s strength this season and that continued during regional week, when the Blackhawks allowed an average of just 25 points per game in wins over Thorp, Prentice and Drummond.

The Blackhawks humbled host Gilman 72-40 in the conference opener Dec. 5 as the Pirates struggled with Owen-Withee’s full court, zone pressure. The Feb. 13 rematch was much more of a half-court battle with neither team being able to shoot well against each other’s zones. Owen-Withee had just a little more offensive punch and won 39-28.

The Pirates are hoping their recent offensive surge can make things even more interesting the third time around.

“Shots are falling,” James said. “That’s a big thing.”

“When everyone is shooting that helps a lot,” co-captain Claire Drier said.

The Blackhawks, under the direction of head coach Josh Jalling, have really only had one team light them up offensively all year and that team, as usual, was Eastern Cloverbelt champion Neillsville, who beat Owen-Withee 67-40 and 62-20 in the regular season. Take away those two games and Owen-Withee defensive average would be 28.5 points per game.

The defense has been necessary because Owen-Withee is not overly explosive offensively. The 72 points the Blackhawks scored against Gilman Dec. 5 was the most they’ve scored in a game this year. They scored 70 one other time and average about 43 points per game. The Blackhawks’ scoring is generally balanced, led by All-ECC junior Kendall Weiler, second-team senior Reina Arndt, a four-year starter with the program, and second-team junior Geneva Capetillo.

Owen-Withee tied Greenwood for second place in the ECC standings as both were the most improved teams in the league. The Blackhawks were just 5-9 in league play and 9-15 overall a year ago.

After the long trips last weekend, the Pirates are excited to be much closer to home for this one.

“It will be nice to have a lot of supporters because it’s not that far of a drive,” Drier said.

Tonight’s winner will head to Hudson Saturday to play in the sectional final against the winner of tonight’s other semifinal between Clear Lake and Turtle Lake, which is being played in Spring Valley. The WIAA has posted a 7 p.m. tip time for Saturday’s final.

The Division 5 state semifinals are set for Friday, March 8 in Green Bay.

The other side

Thursday’s Spring Valley semifinal features a pair of West Lakeland squads going up against each other for the third time this season.

Top-seeded Clear Lake swept Turtle Lake in those conference meetings, 5031 in Turtle Lake on Dec. 12 and 64-46 at home on Jan. 23.

Clear Lake won the conference title at 16-2, losing to Webster 55-53 on Dec. 19 and to Shell Lake 72-68 on Feb. 6. Third-seeded Turtle Lake tied Grantsburg for fourth in the West Lakeland standings at 11-7. The Lakers split with second-place Webster during the regular season but beat the Tigers when it counted, 64-50 in Saturday’s regional final.

Clear Lake is riding a six-game winning streak, its third streak of six games or longer this year. The Warriors beat fourth-seeded New Auburn 52-28 in their regional final, pulling away late in the first half and then gradually separating from there.

The Warriors are fairly balanced statistically, but the leader is 5-10 senior Kate Rosen, who averages 12.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, according to statistics. Clear Lake has solid size and relies primarily on a 2-3 zone defensively, anchored by 5-11 junior Kaylynn Kurtz in the middle. Shelby Meyer, a 6-1 sophomore, gets time in there too. Ellie Cress has 60 3-point makes on the year and shoots them at just under 30%.

Turtle Lake hit a four-game losing streak mid-season but is 8-2 since. One of its signature wins was a 60-59 win on Dec. 27 over the South Shore team Gilman beat on Friday. The Lakers easily handled Glenwood City (73-36) and Clayton (52-32) in their first two regional games.

The Lakers are not as balanced. They rely heavily on 6-foot senior guard Mackenzie Tarman, who averages 24.0 points, 9.2 rebounds per game and 3.8 steals per game, per stats. Despite heavy face-guarding by Webster Saturday and some early foul trouble, Tarman scored 20 points in Saturday’s regional final and she pulled down 21 rebounds. She had 26 points in the win over South Shore.

The Lakers will look to get out and run when opportunities present themselves. They outrebound opponents by an average of 33-22 per game.